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Rikers Inmate Tests Positive for COVID-19; City to Release 40 Vulnerable Inmates

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March 20, 2020 By Allie Griffin

New York City will release 40 inmates on Rikers Island who are vulnerable of complications associated with the novel coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

The individuals have been chosen based on specific health vulnerabilities and their low-risk status, as non-threatening and unlikely to reoffend.

The NYPD and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice are reviewing more potential cases for release, which must be signed off on by the relevant district attorney and/or the state of New York, de Blasio said.

The City also confirmed its first case of an inmate on Rikers Island who tested positive for COVID-19.

The inmate is in his early 30s and is doing okay, health-wise, de Blasio said. He is currently in isolation at the facility’s communicable disease unit.

Eight fellow inmates who shared a housing unit with the man have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and are also in isolation in the communicable disease unit.

On Wednesday, the Chief Physician of Rikers Island Ross MacDonald warned that “a storm is coming,” should coronavirus reach the island’s sprawling prison system.

He asked that the City let out as many inmates as possible.

“A storm is coming and I know what I’ll be doing when it claims my first patient. What will you be doing? What will you have done? We have told you who is at risk,” MacDonald wrote on Twitter. “Please let as many out as you possibly can.”

Meanwhile, Tiffany Caban, who was narrowly defeated by Melinda Katz in last year’s Democratic primary to be Queens District Attorney, called on the Mayor to release more prisoners given the crisis.

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